DOUBT AND THE TURBAN
By Evelyn Archer
So this started years ago, with a hypothetical call out on Tumblr by author Nova Ren Suma (who’s books are beautiful and heartbreaking, complex and terrifying). I can’t find the link now because it’s long, long gone into the Internet Ether, but she talked about how even after four novels under her belt, the Ugly Face of Doubt stills stares back at her at some point in the process. She asked Tumblr, “How do you manage it?”
I’m not sure if this is the response she intended.
1. Spend the morning in bed reading Nancy Drew novels, and chapter 32 of Jane Eyre.
2. Wear a purple turban, and dressing gown that doesn’t fit you properly. Draw on heavy eyeliner. Reenact scenes from Sunset Boulevard. Use cats as extras. I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille.
3. Write a wildly inappropriate fan letter to an author you admire, about your own fears and doubts. Send it. Panic. Know you should have kept it to yourself. Then decide to feel brazen rather than inappropriate. Now you are brazen. In a purple turban.
4. Write a list of Things That Are Awesome. (Crumbling manors, abandoned asylums, mysterious notes, girls with antlers, an endless library)
5. New notebooks, French ruled this time, and new ink, in a shade of bottle green. This. This will make everything better. This will make everything right.
6. Imagine a trusted reader. She loves your work. At the end of your novel she clutches the book to her chest, throws herself across her bedspread and cries, without even wiping her face. The ending, of course. But what’s more, she’s devastated that the book is actually over. It takes a full two hours to return to herself after reading your book. Imagine that. Imagine harder.
7. Imagine a friend, she is also a writer, she is also trying what you are trying. She understands this doubt, this road because she travels it too. Imagine what color her hair would be. Set up your tea set for an Imaginary Tea Party with her. She may, or may not arrive.
8. Go to yoga. Go swimming. Eat leafy greens and sprouted bread. You are getting stronger. Strong enough to smash the future, to smash the doubt to smithereens.
9. Fail. Then remember the advice about “getting up” and “failing better”, but it all seems very theoretical when you are lying with your face in the dirt.
10. Write a list of all the books you’d like to write. Remember that the one you’re working on, this one — it is not the only one you’ll ever write. Despite what it feels like now, you are not trapped in it, like a Djinn in a bottle.
11. Use a system of stickers, sparkling and bright, to mark the hours worked, the words written and revised. Do not think about how a Real Writer would not have to reward herself for doing what she should be doing in the first place. A child, learning to brush her teeth every day.
12. Prove motion by walking. Left foot. Right foot. One word after another, like stones in a wall.
13. Imagine a writer who works in spite of doubt. In the face of it. Imagine what her Courage looks like. Imagine her Brave Shoes, Her Brave and Magical dress. Find a dress like that one. Make one if you have to. Wear the dress under your everyday clothes, like Superman.
Evelyn Archer is the nom de guerre of a library clerk living in a haunted part of New England. She smokes black cigarettes and tells outrageous lies. Her lipstick is red enough to stop a Barcelona bull in his tracks.
She is the author of THE NIGHT TRAIN, the first in the series of THE STRANGE FILES OF MODESTY BROWN, available on Amazon:
She Tweets as @Evelynarches, or you can find her at askevelynarcher.com
Jenna Whittaker is a fantasy and science fiction author who is on the long journey to be published!